Fender Select Precision & Jazz Basses
By BRIAN FOX
Mon, 5 Nov 2012
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IT’S AN ADAGE YOU HEAR TIME AND AGAIN—LEO GOT IT right the first time. Truly, when Leo Fender’s Precision Bass hit the market in 1951, the bar for the electric bass—then a brand-new instrument— was set pretty dang high. Subsequent design tweaks, including the shift to the split pickup configuration in 1957 and the option of a rosewood fingerboard in 1959, clinched the iconic instrument’s status as the gold standard for electric bass. Fender’s 1960 follow-up home run in the Jazz Bass makes it easy to understand how the nascent instrument—before such new-fangled developments as active electronics, 5-strings, 6-strings, 11-strings, etc.—was once known ubiquitously as the Fender Bass.

A lot has changed since those dinosaur days of slab bodies, clay position markers, and “backwards” tuners. But one thing remains: the mighty Precision and venerated Jazz are still kings of the castle in the Land of Down Low. Of course, there are legitimate claims to the throne coming from all sides. But bring a burly P or a sweet J to just about any gig/session/rehearsal/hootenanny, and you’re sure to get the nod of approval from those in the know.

It was once a small cottage industry to take the basic design of a Precision—and especially that of a Jazz—and supercharge it using fancy woods, hitech electronics, and a price tag that would make most working stiff s blanch. Now it’s big business. With a few exceptions, Fender has seemed a little reluctant to move into that luxury market, choosing instead to continue to cook up Leo’s tried-andtrue original recipe while branching out mostly with budget-minded takes on P- and J-Basses. With its new Select Precision and Jazz Basses, Fender is throwing a bone to P and J lovers looking for something a little special.

SWEET P
First, a confession: I have a hard time finding P-style instruments that speak to me. Turns out I’m more or less a Jazz guy (though definitely not in the “Giant Steps” sense of the word), partial to thin neck profiles and the scooped sound I’ve come to associate with Jazz Basses. In the Select Precision, I just might have found a soul mate. Everything about the Select P rubbed me the right way, from its impeccable handpolished sunburst finish (on a luxurious flame maple top, no less) to its comfortable satin-finish neck. I tend to be persnickety about the tone pot on P-Basses— after all, that’s pretty much the only tone control you get on this relatively Spartan instrument—and the smooth taper of the Select P’s pot afforded every nuance I could want in a Precision, from dark, rich, and buttery to zingy and aggressive. To be sure, I’ve had pleasant experiences playing a variety of modern- day Precisions, but in terms of playability and tone, the Select felt and sounded and a cut above.

 

 
NEW J WAY
Chalk it up to the novelty of a the Select Precision—and the allure of all the other sexy basses that pass through our office—but it actually took a little time to warm up to the Select Jazz Bass. A J-Bass with a fancy maple top? Been there, done that. Passive electronics, in these “Super-J” times? Yawn. And yet, the beauty of the Select Jazz is that it is actually downright old-school by design, a throw-back to the days of old. The Select Jazz features many of the same high-class accouterment as the Select Precision: hand-rubbed finish on a maple top, an alder body, and a quartersawn maple neck. For the fingerboard, Fender opted for rosewood with block bindings—a nod to the coveted ’70s-era Jazz Basses.

Once I got over my misguided expectations of the Select Jazz, I got it; the bass doesn’t have the bells and whistles often found on so many upscale Jazz clones, but what it does have is abundant evidence of master craftsmanship and attention to detail, and solid proof that Leo did get it right the first time (actually the second time, but who’s counting?). If you’re looking for an ultra-snappy, super-charged J-Bass active electronics, there are lots of options out there. If you’re looking for a top-notch Jazz—perhaps the best that Fender has to offer, check out the Select Jazz.

When Fender re-vamped its American Standard series of Basses in 2008, we dug where they were going: back to basics. With the Select Precision and Jazz, Fender is taking that tradition to the next level with a limited number of instruments. Certainly, you can get the job done just as well with Fender’s less expensive models. But a touch of class goes a long way; and if you’re looking for that extra-special J or P, you owe it to yourself to check out Fender’s Select series.

SPECIFICATIONS

FENDER

Fender Select Precision Bass
Street
$2,300
Bottom Line A superior specimen of the bass that started it all.

Fender Select Jazz Bass
Street
$2,300
Bottom Line In a market cluttered with fancy-pants clones, Fender sticks to its game plan and knocks it out of the park.

Contact fender.com

SELECT PRECISION BASS

Body Alder
Top Flame maple
Neck Quartersawn maple
Fingerboard Maple
Width at nut 1.625"
Radius Compound (9.5"–14")
Pickup Fender Select Precision splitcoil
Finish Gloss-lacquer 2-tone sunburst
Weight 8.8 lbs
Hardshell case Included
Made in U.S.A.

SELECT JAZZ BASS

Body Alder
Top Flame maple
Neck Quartersawn maple
Fingerboard Rosewood
Width at nut 1.5"
Radius Compound (9.5"–14")
Pickups Fender Select Jazz
Finish Gloss-lacquer Amber Burst
Weight 9.4 lbs
Hardshell case Included
Made in U.S.A.

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